Lawyer withdraws guilty plea for York
Nuwaubian leader likely to face new charges, including
Macon Telegraph/October 25, 2003
By Rob Peecher
A federal court judge determined Friday that Nuwaubian leader
Malachi York withdrew his previous guilty plea to financial and
child sex charges.
York did not directly answer questions from the court about his
plea, but U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal determined
through York's attorney that he wished to change his plea to "not
York faces federal charges of transporting children across
state lines for sex and evading financial reporting requirements.
Also Friday, York's defense attorneys said they have been put
on notice by the government that York will likely face a new round
of indictments that include racketeering charges.
York's trial is scheduled for early January. U.S. marshals led
York, whose head was newly shaved, into the Macon courtroom in an
orange Jones County Jail jumpsuit. His ankles and wrists were
bound. He sat at the defense table, flanked by his attorneys,
Frank Rubino, Manny Arora and Ed Garland.
When Royal entered the courtroom, York refused to stand up. Two
U.S. marshals pulled him to his feet and held him up until Royal
told those in the courtroom to be seated.
Royal - who got the case after Judge Hugh Lawson recused
himself - began the hearing by saying he was going to pick up
where Lawson left off, signaling he would not accept the
negotiated plea agreement between York and the government. Lawson,
before recusing himself, had said he would not accept a 15-year
sentence for York.
Royal also ruled Friday that, based on a recent psychiatric
evaulation, York is competent to stand trial. Royal then asked if
York would withdraw his guilty plea.
Rubino, one of his attorneys, said he had met with York for
four hours the previous day.
"I think he will allow us to withdraw his plea of guilty and
reinstate a plea of not guilty," Rubino said.
Typically, a defendant enters his plea on the record, but when
Royal asked York to say whether he wanted to withdraw his guilty
plea, York declined to give an affirmative response.
"As a private citizen and a secured party, I accept this for
value," York said.
Royal then asked York a series of questions intended to illicit
a direct answer, and York said only, "I accept this for value."
"With all due respect, if I respond to that question I'll be
putting myself back in the public," York finally said. "I prefer
not to participate in this forum. That's why I have an
international attorney sitting here, and he can speak for me."
The language York used is similar to language in "common law"
filings his followers have made in courts in Atlanta, Macon and
Putnam County - where York's cult group, the United Nuwaubian
Nation of Moors, has a 476-acre compound. The common law filings
are similar to those used primarily in western states by
Rubino made some effort to interpret for the judge.
"The defendant believes that somehow the uniform commercial
code has some jurisdiction - I'm scratching for words here, please
understand - over this court," Rubino said. "I don't understand
this theory, and I don't propound it because I don't understand
it. But he is the client, and I do my best to represent him."
York, who in 1993 moved from New York to Georgia with his
followers and settled on a farm west of Eatonton, faces both
federal and state charges of molesting children. He also faces
federal charges of avoiding financial reporting requirements. York
was arrested May 8, 2002. In January, he pleaded guilty to 77
state charges of molesting children. He also pleaded guilty to one
federal charge of taking children across state lines for the
purpose of having sex with them and another of avoiding financial
Royal did not rule on any outstanding motions during the nearly
30-minute hearing. However, the defense attorneys said they had
received correspondence from the U.S. Attorney's Office suggesting
that York in November will likely face a new, superceding
indictment that also will allege racketeering crimes.
Also, Rubino took exception to a notice from the U.S.
Attorney's Office responding to the defense's witness list.
York apparently is on the list to testify, but federal law
allows the government to prosecute both the defendant and his
attorneys for perjury if the defendant changes his story from what
he said when he pleaded guilty.
Rubino called the notice "a veiled threat," but Assistant U.S.
Attorney Richard Moultrie said he was only following federal law.
Outside the courthouse, York's followers stood along Third
Street carrying signs proclaiming their Indian heritage, and some
played drums. This summer, York stood before Judge Lawson and
claimed he is an "indigenous and sovereign" person and demanded
that he be released to his "own people." During that and later
hearings, York's followers have shown up wearing Native
American-style clothing and playing drums.
"Not all Indians are Redskins," one of the signs said. "There
are many black Indian tribes," another said.
York and his followers have also claimed Egyptians heritage.
York has claimed to be an angel or a being from another planet.
He and his followers have also claimed to be Muslims, Jews and